Daypack: Osprey Daylite Plus

I wanted an Osprey daypack to compliment my suitcase/backpack: the Osprey Farpoint 40. This would give me a total of 60 liters of carrying capacity.

I chose a 20 liter all-rounder, a pack suitable for travel as well as hiking and trekking. This pack needed to be versatile and able to be small enough to slide under an airplane seat but roomy enough to to carry my binoculars, camera, sketching kit, and a water bottle. This is the Osprey Daylite Plus.

When I got the pack home, I loaded it up when above said items and was happy to see that they all fit with room to spare.

I decided to take the pack out on a test hike on the Old Cove Landing Trail at Wilder Ranch State Park on the Santa Cruz County Coast. This is one of my favorite coastal hikes and it is also a great place to bird.

The Daylite Plus in Wave Blue at Wilder Ranch.

The Daylite Plus, loaded up, felt good on my back. I used the sternum straps but I didn’t need to use the waist belt. This pack will do nicely for my Icelandic rambles.

Spring was in the air on the Old Cove Landing Trail. Here are a few highlights.

An unexpected surprise was a singing male lazuli bunting. This is one of the most beautiful songbirds of spring.
This sign has seen better days but it provides a perfect singing stage for the verbose Bewick’s wren.
Two pigeon guillemots greeting each other. I assume this is a mated pair. Another sign of spring.

The Murres of Egg Rock

On Easter Sunday I walked west on the former Highway One at Devil’s Slide on the San Mateo County Coast. My destination was the common murre success story that is Egg Rock. This somehow seems appropriate, given the day.

I remember driving this white-knuckle stretch of Highway One. The current roadway is routed through a tunnel to the east. Peregrine Rock is on the left.

As I passed “Peregrine Rock“, so named because of the nesting peregrine falcons on the cliff face, two juvenile rock wrens were perched out on the retaining wall. I took a few photos of the obliging wrens and then headed down the road to the Egg Rock lookout.

This juvenile rock wren was very accommodating.

Egg Rock is a collection of rocks just off the coast of Devil’s Slide. It is the scene of an alcid success story. Egg Rock supported a breeding colony of about 3,000 common murres. A murre is a seabird that superficially looks like a penguin. They spend much of their life at sea but come ashore to breed.

In the early 1980s the colony saw a rapid decline due to gill netting, a change in weather patterns, and pollution. The colony collapsed altogether and no murres nested on the once populous rock. In the middle 1990s a murre restoration project was started. By 1996 just 12 murres where observed on Egg Rock. The restoration project employed murre decoys, mirrors, and broadcasting murre calling in order to bring murres back to Egg Rock. And it slowly began to work.

By 2005 there were 328 murres and by 2014 the murre population reached 3,200 birds. The murres of Egg Rock had finally recovered to their pre-1980s numbers.

Road cuts are a geologist’s gift. Here is the sedimentary uplifted rock of Devil’s Slide.
A sign of spring: a Bewick’s wren in song.

Spring Birding

I took young Grasshopper Sparrow to one of my favorite birding locations in Santa Cruz County, the Old Cove Landing Trail, at Wilder Ranch State Park.

Birding in the spring is a pleasure as you see returning migrants and signs of newborn life. Males are defending their territories in song and are frequently seen perched on prominent singing perches giving a birder great views!

One lifer on Grasshopper’s list was a pigeon guillemot, an alcid that is not a pigeon but a bird of the near shore. Once we hit the coast the guillemots were an easy tick with many on the water or resting on cliffs. We had sensational views and we moved on down the coast in search of more signs of spring.

The spring pleasures are not only reserved to the avian world. As we were about a mile down the trail which follows the contours of the coast, a long-tailed weasel crossed our path! Perhaps an adult hunting to feed its growing kittens. We watched as it’s black-tipped tail disappeared into the green grass.

My young acolyte, Grasshopper Sparrow’s spread about our brief encounter with a life mammal.

We continued on and were rewarded with a black phoebe nest with a near fledgling. Grasshopper thought the chick was dead but I suggested it was just in instinctual frozen mode at the sight of two large bipeds approaching.

We then headed back, adding more lifers to Grasshopper’s growing list and I wanted to check in on another sign of spring just south on Highway One at Natural Bridges State Beach. The eucalyptus grove here is known for the 150,000 wintering monarch butterflies. Most were gone now. We were here for owls!

From the butterfly viewing platform we easily spotted the two adult great horned owls with their recently fledged owlet. These owls start their breeding cycle early as the don’t construct their own nests. Instead they borrowed a red-shouldered hawk’s nest.

As we headed out, the local male Bewick’s wren was perched up, proclaiming his place in the world.